By Scott Wilson
Washington Post staff writer
Friday, August 6, 2010; 4:36 PM
"While she may be feeling a twinge of sadness about giving up the title of general," Obama said of his solicitor general, "I think we can all agree that Justice Elena Kagan has a nice ring to it."
The East Room reception marked the president's customary celebration and send-off of his Supreme Court nominee -- a final moment for gratitude and reflection before separation of powers sets in and the new justice must look at her benefactor as just another pleader before the high court.
Kagan, confirmed by the Senate Thursday, is scheduled to be sworn in on Saturday, an event presidents traditionally do not attend.
Obama began his remarks by saying, "today is a good day," and the event sending the fourth female justice to the court had a humorous, festive feel. There was a band in the Grand Foyer and champagne on silver trays.
In the audience for the remarks were Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony Kennedy. Obama said Kennedy "assured me that he would keep Justice Kagan out of trouble, and Justice Ginsburg assured me that she would get Justice Kagan into trouble.
"So we'll see how that works out," he said.
Obama noted that, with Kagan, three female justices will be serving on the court for the first time. He called it "another example of how our union has become more, not less, perfect over time -- more open, more fair, more free."
Kagan thanked Obama for his support and his staff for their help throughout the confirmation process, which she noted involved meeting 83 senators.
"But, really, who's counting?" she said.
Much of her family was in the audience, and she said she could hear the voice of her late parents, as well as her mentor, Justice Thurgood Marshall, whom she clerked for early in her career. She said they were telling her that the position she was about to take up is "not just an honor; it is an obligation."
In thanking her former colleagues in the solicitor general's office, Kagan called them part of the "best law office in the country."
"Now, once I put on that robe, I'm only going to vote with them when they have the better of the argument, which, let's be frank, is not in every case," she said to laughter.